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2011 Editors' Choice Awards
Friday, October 19, 2012
2011 was a very busy year at CruiseReport.com. In our never-ending quest to bring you the very best cruise information, we traveled all over the globe.

  • More than 34,000 miles traveled
  • 6,432 photos taken
  • 8 hours and 32 minutes of video
  • 16 videos produced for CruiseReport TV
  • 5 major editorial cruise reviews (over 17,000 words)
  • Over 150 blog entries
  • 6 hotel/resort reviews added to Great Cruise Hotels
  • 13 Travel Tech reviews (cameras, camcorders, security, etc.)

The first assignment was onboard the brand new Disney Dream (Disney Proves Dreams Do Come True) where we spent two nights exploring this amazing new theme park at sea. Disney invited a bunch of us "media-types" to Ft. Lauderdale to see the new ship and to wine and dine us. We get invited on quite a few of these press junkets and don't often make an appearance. Why? Simply because we like to focus on in-depth, meaningful reviews of cruise ships. There is no way to get a true cruise experience when you are onboard a ship for only two days with a group of media folk. Nevertheless, this is Disney, and it dovetailed perfectly with a 7-night sailing we had scheduled in Miami the day after the festivities.

The Disney Dream event was a great, albeit short, visit aboard an absolutely amazing new ship. In fact, even after only two days, we give Disney Dream our Editor's Choice award as BEST NEW LARGE SHIP FOR 2011 that we have seen! We can only hope that we get to do a full week onboard her in the future so we can bring you a proper, thorough review.

DISCLAIMER: Before we go any further I want to express my opinion regarding cruise line awards. For the most part, they are bogus. There, I said it! Awards typically come from surveys from travel magazines or websites from cruise enthusiasts. Many, if not most, who vote for their favorite cruise line may have never sailed with another cruise line. Having little or no basis for comparison, how valuable can these awards really be? Even our Editors' Choice Awards are subject to scrutiny since we can only bestow an honor to a cruise ship or line which we have personally experienced. So, when you read this article and see one of our Editors' Choice Awards, realize that they are based solely on our personal experiences and observations during that year.

After disembarking Disney Dream, we rented a car and drove to Miami where we spent the night at The Palms Hotel and Spa in North Beach. After an excellent dinner and walk along the beach, we settled in for a good night's rest. The next morning, we were up and ready to turn the rental car back in and head to the Port of Miami where we boarded Celebrity Eclipse. This was our first cruise with Celebrity since 2005 and we were quite impressed with how the cruise line has grown and matured.

Celebrity EclipseHands down, Rickee and I agree that Q-Sine gets our 2011 Editor's Choice Award for MOST INNOVATIVE DINING AT SEA with the amazing selection of international cuisines and the clever iPad menu system. And in fact, we were impressed with virtually all of the dining onboard Celebrity. In fact, while we are at it, we will throw another Editor's Choice Award their way...BEST LIDO BUFFET AT SEA for the Oceanview Cafe. Even Rickee, who typically hates buffet fare, was impressed and looked forward to the variety of serving stations offered. And, it is not all about food: Celebrity Eclipse exceeded our expectations in almost every area. For a large ship with thousands of guests to tend to, they do an amazing job of giving personal service and attention. The Celebrity iLounge, with an array of brand new Macintosh computers, was a shoe-in for the BEST INTERNET CAFE award for 2011. Even our verandah stateroom was a close runner-up for the best accommodations award, edged out by Crystal Symphony. But when it comes to making their loyal cruise guests feel special, our BEST LOYALTY PROGRAM award for 2011 has to go to Celebrity's Captain's Club. Not only do they lavish you with some valuable discount coupons, the awards get better the more cruise credits you accumulate. We were even invited to a nice complimentary cocktail party each evening. Very special. And, are you ready for this? Our award for BEST PRODUCTION SHOW ENTERTAINMENT goes to Celebrity Eclipse. That's one we really don't take lightly because honestly, Rickee and I rarely go to evening shows and, when we do, we are even more rarely impressed. We attended three shows on Eclipse and were blown away with the quality of the production and the talent. All-in-all, Celebrity surprised us by racking up more awards than any other cruise line in 2011. Who'd uh thunk it?

In April, we were fortunate to spend thirteen nights onboard Azamara Journey on a Transatlantic sailing from Ft. Lauderdale to Civitavecchia, Italy. This was our first sailing with Azamara and it proved to be very special indeed. Azamara's two 700-passenger ships were originally two of the popular "R" ships from the defunct Renaissance Cruises. These ships have not only survived, but continue to deliver the perfect balance between big ship amenities and small ship intimacy. In our opinion, Azamara is our choice for BEST NEW PREMIUM CRUISE LINE for 2011. Oh, and one other award while we are at it: the Mosaic Cafe on Deck 5 is our choice for BEST CASUAL DINING CONCEPT at sea. Even though they only serve snacks throughout the day, everything is so well executed that it just deserves recognition.

One of my personal favorite awards that I bestow is directly related to my deep love and devotion to the common hamburger. Yes, it's true. I often forego the more lavish lunch buffets and dining room menus for a simple burger at the pool grill. Well, I have to tell you, Azamara Journey wins my award for BEST POOL GRILL AT SEA. While their hamburger is no better than Celebrity Eclipse, which comes in a very close second place, they kick everybody's butt when it comes to menu selection. You can get chicken wings, BBQ ribs, and all sorts of skewers with various meats. They even have delicious guacomole and chips! But, most importantly to me, they have ONION RINGS, the hardest thing to find at sea! And, they cooked them fresh to order every day.

In May, we were invited to return to China and sail with one of our all-time favorite cruise lines, Silversea Cruises. However, before boarding Silver Shadow in Shanghai, we decided to spend two nights at the luxurious Fairmont Peace Hotel located on The Bund. The property was an amazing way to begin a 6-star Silversea cruise. The Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai gets our first-ever Editor's Choice Award for BEST PRE-/POST-CRUISE HOTEL for 2011!

When we did finally board Silver Shadow, it was like coming home again. We have been singing the praises of this ultra-luxury cruise line for years. And, we are not alone. Silversea has racked up an impressive list of accolades and awards from major travel publications the world over. Let's begin with what we consider to be the BEST ENRICHMENT SERIES AT SEA with their long list of guest lecturers. This also includes the Culinary Arts Series with top-quality cooking demonstrations from guest chefs as well as the ship's own culinary staff. And, Silversea continues to impress even when you are off the ship. Rickee and I consider Silversea to offer the BEST SHORE EXCURSIONS of any cruise line. Every excursion begins with complimentary bottled water and there are always Silversea staff accompanying the guests on every excursion. But, what we really appreciate is that in virtually every port, Silversea arranges for a complimentary shuttle to transport guests into town. Even though Silversea's pricing is at the top of the industry, guests get a lot of bang for their many bucks. Complimentary cocktails throughout the ship, a chilled bottle of champagne in every suite, all gratuities included in the cruise fare, and more, make this our choice for BEST LUXURY CRUISE VALUE. Silversea does so many things so well that we consider Silversea to be THE BEST SMALL SHIP CRUISE LINE in the world.



In June, we took a break to do our annual three-week motorcycle tour. But in July, we were back on yet another first-time cruise line (for us). InnerSea Discoveries Wilderness Discoverer was tiny compared to Silver Shadow. This new offshoot of American Safari Cruises now operates three vessels exclusively in Alaska. You probably could not go from one extreme to another coming off of Silversea onto Wilderness Explorer. The stateroom was tiny. No seriously, I mean TINY. They even have hooks on the walls in the hallway for you to hang up your wet rain gear and boots. But, what Wilderness Discoverer lacks in size, it more than makes up for with pure adventure and warmth. We have been to Alaska five times and can honestly say with some degree of credibility that InnerSea Discoveries is the BEST WAY TO SEE ALASKA, period.

One thing that I was not expecting was to slip during a rain forest hike, fall backwards and break two ribs in the process. Sadly, this happened only three days into the cruise! If you have ever had a broken rib, you know the pain I was in. I was unable to participate in any of the other strenuous activities offered by InnerSea Discoveries. Oh darn, guess we will just have to go back and try again! Even though there was no doctor onboard, Captain Marce and the entire crew went out the of their way to make me as comfortable as possible. They were great. So, we have to give them the award for BEST CREW AT SEA for 2011. And, I will not soon forget the amazing bacon served each morning at breakfast, so Wilderness Discoverer gets a third Editor's Choice Award, BEST BREAKFAST AT SEA.

If you have never sailed Alaska, you really don't know what you are missing. And, if you don't do it with InnerSea Discoveries, you won't get to see the "real" Alaska.

In September we sailed with Crystal Cruises for the very first time. The New York to Montreal sailing on Crystal Symphony validated what we have suspected for years, that this is one great cruise line! Crystal Symphony made a great backdrop for our very first American Cruisers video. Crystal has a very loyal following and it is easy to see why. It did not take long for us to consider our Crystal Penthouse with Verandah the MOST LUXURIOUS ACCOMMODATIONS AT SEA for 2011. Add to that our pick as BEST BUTLER SERVICE AT SEA at you will see why we did not mind spending time in our stateroom! When Crystal fully implements their new complimentary cocktails and gratuities that are going to be a real force to be reckoned with in the luxury value department. As it stands right now, we would already consider Crystal our pick as BEST LARGE SHIP LUXURY CRUISE LINE. However, I should mention that we consider any ship carrying more than 700 guests to be "large" in the luxury segment.

Our cruise year ended with a 7-night sailing on SeaDream Yacht Club SeaDream II. This is a yacht on which we have sailed a few times and we are pleased to report that the service and quality are as good as ever. SeaDream has long been one of our favorites for pure luxury and relaxation. In fact, it easily wins our pick as MOST RELAXING CRUISE vacation. Mom always said that good things come in small packages, and SeaDream proves her correct. Each yacht only serves 108 guests per sailing, but does so in a casual luxury that sets it apart from other cruise product. The Top Of The Yacht bar under the direction of Chief Bartender Roland, gets our pick for BEST BAR SERVICE AT SEA. A SeaDream Yacht Club vacation is perfect for those who would never consider going on a "cruise". And, their casual, yachting experience makes this the BEST CASUAL CRUISE EXPERIENCE you will find. You don't even need to pack a jacket and/or tie! The experience is like being invited onto a private yacht by a friend. A SeaDream Yacht "experience" is unlike any cruise you will ever experience. And, that's a good thing!

So, people are always asking us "What is the best cruise line?" It is an impossible question to answer. Every cruise line has areas where it excels. Most do everything well and provide good value. It really depends on what is most important to you. In 2012 we plan to evaluate a whole new group of ships, and perhaps even some new cruise lines. We look forward to 2012 and all the new adventures ahead.










SUMMARY OF OUR EDITORS' CHOICE AWARDS FOR 2011

  • Best New Large Cruise Ship - Disney Dream
  • Most Innovative Dining Venue - QSine - Celebrity Cruises
  • Best Lido Buffet - Oceanview Cafe - Celebrity Eclipse - Celebrity Cruises
  • Best Internet Cafe - iLounge - Celebrity Eclipse - Celebrity Cruises
  • Best Loyalty Program - Captain's Club - Celebrity Cruises
  • Best Production Show Entertainment - Celebrity Eclipse - Celebrity Cruises
  • Best New Premium Cruise Line - Azamara Club Cruises
  • Best Casual Dining Concept - Mosaic Cafe - Azamara Journey - Azamara Club Cruises
  • Best Pool Grill Dining - Azamara Journey - Azamara Club Cruises
  • Best Enrichment Series - Silversea Cruises
  • Best Shore Excursions - Silversea Cruises
  • Best Luxury Cruise Value - Silversea Cruises
  • Best Small Ship Luxury Cruise Line - Silversea Cruises
  • Best Way To See Alaska - InnerSea Discoveries
  • Best Crew At Sea - InnerSea Discoveries
  • Best Breakfast - InnerSea Discoveries
  • Best Accommodations - Crystal Cruises
  • Best Butler Service - Crystal Cruises - Crystal Symphony
  • Best Large Ship Luxury Cruise Line - Crystal Cruises
  • Most Relaxing Cruise Vacation - SeaDream Yacht Club
  • Best Bar Service - SeaDream Yacht Club
  • Best Casual Cruise Experience - SeaDream Yacht Club

Originally posted on January 17, 2012

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If you have any brief comments about 2011 Editors' Choice Awards please share them below.
11 Comments
FATWA
Some people don't want to write on ideas like yours. Thank you for tiankg a subject of today and making it understandable for me to learn more about that I can use in everyday life.
Friday, September 27, 2013 2:27 AM  
RICKEE RICHARDSON
@Francis, we offer all cruise lines the opportunity to participate. We can only award those that we personally experience. But, I certainly understand your position.
Monday, July 16, 2012 5:23 PM  
FRANCIS
To tell you the truth, I prefer awards based on the collective experience of a group of critics/members over one based solely on personal experiences in which barely any of the major cruise lines have been examined/tested. It's almost pointless giving out awards when Holland America Lines, Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruise Lines, Oceania Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and many more major cruise lines were not included.
Monday, July 16, 2012 5:13 PM  
FRANCIS
To tell you the truth, I prefer awards based on the collective experience of a group of critics/members over one based solely on personal experiences in which barely any of the major cruise lines have been examined/tested. It's almost pointless giving out awards when Holland America Lines, Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruise Lines, Oceania Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and many more major cruise lines were not included.
Monday, July 16, 2012 5:12 PM  
BROOKLYNDA
Can't imagine that HAL is not on your list. We've been sailing with them for years and think they are tops. We don't care for the mega ships and won't consider sailing on another one. Too many crowds for services and disembarking in ports. Ugh! Never again!
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 8:17 PM  
CRUISEREPORT.COM EDITOR
@Anonymous, Holland America is an excellent cruise line. The reason they did not get an award in 2011 is because we did not sail on HAL in 2011. Only cruise lines that we personally experience in a given year can qualify for recognition. The only "mega" ships that we recognized were Disney and Celebrity. Most of the other ships could be considered small to medium.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 10:20 AM  
ANONYMOUS
Seems so strange that Holland America, which is an excellent cruise line, that I have cruised on, has no awards. Looks like you picked some of the MEGA ships that I wouldn't be caught dead on. Ever see how long the lines are to get back on those ships? Didn;t they offer you folks a free cruise? Agree with Cindy, what a load of BS.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 10:12 AM  
JIM SCOTT
If you had been given a free cruise on the Costa Concordia you would have probably given them an award for most exciting cruise. Have you given out "best virus outbreak" yet?
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 9:59 AM  
ANDREW CHOOLJIAN
I just returned from 9 days on Silversea - our second cruise with them. The accolades are genuine and earned.
Sunday, January 22, 2012 11:09 AM  
RICKEE RICHARDSON
@Cindy, plenty of folks out there like you to provide negative comments.
Saturday, January 21, 2012 3:24 PM  
CINDY
Best load of Bull... this site. If they give you a free cruise you give them an award. Where are the negative comments?
Saturday, January 21, 2012 11:25 AM  
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